“How Do I Know You Are Listening?”

On August 5th Vision Critical held a webinar titled, “How NASCAR Increases Fan Engagement and Drives Business Decisions” where Brian Moyer discussed the NASCAR Fan Council, its online community of more than 10,000 NASCAR fans. YOCIn his presentation, he talked about the camaraderie feel of the community and the efforts they take to create an atmosphere in which fans believe they are “talking directly to NASCAR.” So strong is this community atmosphere that fans actually challenge whether Moyer and his team are hearing what fans have to say and wonder if NASCAR is internalizing their comments for a greater good. One fan asked, “How do I know you are listening?”

What a great question. To NASCAR’s credit, they make a habit of providing one-on-one feedback to their community members and did so in response to the are-you-listening question. But how well do researchers of any kind pay attention to this all-important facet of research design? Where in our research designs do we build in the step that communicates to our respondents/participants that we are, indeed, listening? But not just listening; rather, hearing them.

The Your Opinion Counts® (YOC) program is maintained by the MRA and consists of various organizations that have “pledged to uphold industry standards [and] maintain a high standard of respect for the public.” The program is intended to assure research respondents/participants “that they have been selected to participate in a [research study] by an organization that will maintain their rights as a respondent, and will only use the information…to improve products, services, or programs.” The YOC program is good as far as it goes. “Respect,” “rights,” and directing research input solely towards the betterment of something that impacts me are all to the respondent’s/participant’s advantage.

But respect doesn’t mean that you have heard what I said and that it actually “counts” for anything real to me.

In employee research, it is common to give feedback to corporate employees concerning the outcomes of the research and, importantly, the action steps the organization hopes to achieve as a result of the study. Certainly this step in the research design could be built into all our studies. And why wouldn’t we? After all, how are our respondents/participants to know that we are listening – hearing – if we don’t make that effort to show them just how much their opinions count.

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